GOP's Tancredo: Tougher Immigration Policy Needed
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Joining us is Congressman Thomas Tancredo. He is a Republican from Colorado. He opposes any liberalization of immigration laws. He's a well-known advocate of stricter border controls.
Congressman, welcome to DAY TO DAY.
Representative THOMAS TANCREDO (Republican, Colorado): Thank you. It's a pleasure to join you.
CHADWICK: According to the White House, when the president speaks about immigration later today, he's going to talk about giving additional resources and more technology to secure the border. That's something you've been asking for.
Rep. TANCREDO: It certainly is, and I'll be interested to hear exactly what the proposals entail, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
CHADWICK: Another aspect of the president's plans you're not so fond of--this is his guest worker program for millions of undocumented immigrants here in the US. He spoke about this at the State of the Union address earlier this year. Here's the president.
(Soundbite of 2005 State of the Union Address)
President GEORGE W. BUSH: It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists.
CHADWICK: Congressman, how about that aspect of the president's wishes?
Rep. TANCREDO: Well, he put that all together in one sentence by, you know, saying, `We need a guest worker program that does these things, including sealing the border.' Of course, it's just the opposite. It was an interesting use of words by whoever did the wordsmithing for him, but the reality is that a guest worker program, especially the kind that he proposes, one that does, in fact, create an amnesty even though he refuses to call it that, will do just the opposite in terms of border security.
CHADWICK: But aren't there millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in this country? What are you going to do with all those people?
Rep. TANCREDO: The most conservative estimate I have ever heard is 13 million, but I think it's much closer to even 20 million people who are here illegally. And what are you going to do? You're going to enforce the law. You're going to, first of all, enforce the law against hiring people who are here illegally. Go after the employers. You know, that's something I don't see in the president's plan, but it's imperative that we put in place. Employers are, in fact, the demand side of the equation. They create the demand. The jobs that they provide are the attraction for people who come.
CHADWICK: Aren't there an awful lot of people in your own party who disagree with you on this, Congressman?
Rep. TANCREDO: Yes. Fewer and fewer every day, however. Even I'm amazed at the number of people who are now front and center who, in the past, were quite unwilling to be counted among the ranks, including the president, evidently.
CHADWICK: But he is continuing to advocate this kind of guest worker program, which many, many people in the business community support.
Rep. TANCREDO: Right. And I think you can have one, but you cannot have one until you secure the border and go after employers.
CHADWICK: Congressman, I do wonder how it will be possible to secure our borders in the way that you talk about, that is the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs agents, police. We have been spending a lot of money trying to secure the borders, and especially the southern border, but very determined people still cross in huge numbers.
Rep. TANCREDO: Yes, they do. And we know that we are more vulnerable because those borders are as porous as they are, and yet we accept that because that allure of cheap labor is so strong.
CHADWICK: But, Congressman, none of the most infamous terrorists who have attacked this country are known to have come across the border in the way that illegal immigrants get across the border.
Rep. TANCREDO: Well, why in the world would we ever think that they would not, however? Because the others came in an even easier way, by the use of a visa--most of those folks were illegal aliens at the time. Why wouldn't they do it the easiest way? And, in fact, they are. We have to secure our borders not only for the constant breach of those borders, it's important for our national security.
CHADWICK: Tom Tancredo is a Republican congressman from Colorado in a district near Denver.
Congressman, thank you for joining us on DAY TO DAY.
Rep. TANCREDO: You bet. It's been a pleasure.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.